- Caroline Parr
As we welcome the Boy Scouts to Fredericksburg this week, I have to give a shout-out to the Eagle Scouts in my life. To my late father, my brother-in-law and, in just a few weeks, my nephew, congratulations on your achievements!
The Scouts enjoying the Jamboree will not only be climbing, fishing, rappelling and shooting off air rifles. They’ll also enjoy a visit from popular author Michael Scott, creator of the “Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” series. Scott will also be appearing downtown at Jabberwocky on Thursday afternoon, July 29; call 371-56984 for details.
The first book in his bestselling series, “The Alchemyst,” introduces fifteen-year-old twins Sophie and Josh. Within just a few pages, their lives are turned upside down when two black-clad bad guys with “dead-looking eyes” storm the bookshop where Josh is working, take the owner hostage, and disappear with a rare book. But not before Josh, thinking fast, has torn out the last two pages.
The book, the Codex, turns out to be a compilation of ancient magical lore, and the bookshop owner, Nick Fleming, reveals himself to be the famed fourteenth-century alchemist Nicholas Flamel. The bad guys are actually golems, animated creatures made of mud and stone, operated by Dr. John Dee, who is working for the evil Dark Forces. The twins’ existence is prophesied in the Codex as either saving the world or destroying it. Whew!
What follows is a pell-mell adventure story that draws on world mythology and historical figures for its characters and plot twists. The cliffhanger ending demands that readers grab “The Magician,” the next book in the series, in which the twins’ adventures continue in Paris.
Fans of Scott’s adventure fantasies will enjoy Rick Yancey’s “The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp.” Alfred is a newly orphaned fifteen-year-old kid who never expected that he would save the world, or die saving it. But this likeable anti-hero finds himself caught up in forces beyond his control when he helps his uncle steal an old sword for Arthur Myers, the owner of Tintagel International. The sword turns out to be King Arthur’s Excalibur, and Mr. Meyers gives it to an evil knight who plans to use its magic to take over the world. As Alfred says, “I took the world’s most powerful weapon and let it fall into the hands of a lunatic.”
His quest to retrieve the sword involves high-speed car chases, murders, and a surprising revelation about his real identity. His extraordinary adventures continue in “The Seal of Solomon” and “The Thirteenth Skull,” which Scouts and other readers twelve and up will want to seek out.
For slightly younger readers who warm to stories about world domination, Stewart’s “The Mysterious Benedict Society” introduces a disparate group of kids who meet for the first time when they answer a newspaper ad inviting gifted kids who are interested in “special opportunities” to take a series of tests. The four kids who pass the mind-stretching exams find themselves recruited by Mr. Benedict, a kindly but mysterious man, to infiltrate the “Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened.” This school for gifted kids is run by an evil genius (of course), who’s using his students to spread hypnotic messages among the general populace. The quirky characters and inventive plot will propel readers through the book and leave them eager for the sequels.
This article was first published in the Free Lance-Star on July 27, 2010.